I stood for election in 2010 because I was concerned about growing alienation from democratic politics. I’ve tried to make politics more accessible – with my Big Conversation, monthly e-newsletter, weekly diary blog and more. But our system needs to change too. We have an outdated electoral system and over centralisation in London. We need a reformed democracy, with proportional representation and genuine devolution of powers and resources.
I support proportional representation because our current ‘First Past the Post’ voting system means some people’s votes are worth more than others. I am Vice-Chair of the Labour Campaign for Electoral Reform, a founding member of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on PR set up in 2016, and I backed the Alternative Vote system in the 2011 referendum, even though it fell short of full proportional representation.
I have been concerned about attempts by Conservative Governments since 2010 to change the electoral system to their advantage. I opposed their move to change electoral boundaries in their favour through the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Act 2011, arguing for constituencies based on population and not registered voters. I opposed the introduction of individual electoral registration in place of household registration on the basis that it would reduce numbers entitled to vote and I’m against plans to introduce photo ID at polling stations which will discourage voting among the most disadvantaged.
After individual registration was introduced I worked with the University of Sheffield and our City Council to develop a system of integrating student enrolment and voter registration (read more here) which has been taken up by other universities, although my attempt to make it mandatory for all was blocked by the Government.
Giving power to local people
We are one of the most centralised countries in Europe, with too many decisions made in London. I have argued in Parliament that more Government departments should be moved out of London, to help boost local economies and to reduce the London-centricity of policy-makers. I underlined that point by calling for Parliament to relocate to Sheffield whilst the Palace of Westminster is refurbished.
I want to see greater devolution of powers and resources to regional bodies like councils. Since 2010, Sheffield City Council has been forced to make savings of £460 million due to cuts to funding from central Government. I’ve consistently challenged cuts to our Council, co-ordinating the ‘Fair Deal for Sheffield’ campaign, pressing the case with Treasury Ministers and leading a delegation to the then Prime Minister, and have challenged the Government on the effects of the cuts to public services.
Trade Unions are a vital part of our democracy, providing representation for working people, but they are under attack. I am a long-time trade union member, former Branch Secretary and proud of the trade union movement and its link with the Labour Party. I opposed the last Government’s destructive Trade Union Bill, which attacked the right to strike. In a speech to Parliament, I argued that the attacks on trade unions we have witnessed over the last thirty five years have caused the reduction in the share of national income going to working people.
Democracy isn’t just about electing governments, but it’s also about ensuring they’re accountable.
The Government talks about human rights as part of its foreign policy, but wants to scrap our human rights law here at home. I believe Britain should remain a signatory to the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), and in 2015 I launched a campaign to defend our human rights. In Parliament I have challenged the Government to come clean about its plans to replace the Human Rights Act and threaten our international commitments (read more here and here).
This is a selection of my work on this issue. Please get in touch if you want to find out more.